True life story the River Runner is a breathtaking account of kayaking escapades of one of world’s best kayaker from the US Scott Lindgren who takes us through the nerve wracking drops and paddles down deepest foaming falls and twisting rapids in some of the longest and most turbulent rivers on planet earth. Just as scaling a mountain peak is like a tribute to physical fitness and endurance capacity in humans, so is kayaking which is even riskier than white water rafting. As Lindgren puts it, white water rafting may feel like driving a sedan whereas kayaking may feel like steering a racing car. Designer! You need an extraordinary mental strength and physical capacity to train as a kayaker.
White water rafting as such is risky game. So imagine what kayaking must be like. You have to feel the supreme confidence in you, and you have to be fit one hundred percent and there can be no room even for a fraction of misgivings whatsoever. Your mind races along with the turn of the river and jump over the rapid so you have to make quickfire decisions that can make or break you (or kill you). Team morale plays an overriding role and any weak link in the chain could dishearten the entire kayaking group. Emotional detachment crucial to kayakers who need to shut themselves out of a doubtful world. Insulation from any kind of vulnerability is textbook prescription. Scott seems to fit the bill exactly being young and brash, with his no-nonsense attitude, unwavering attention to details and superb physical fitness. He comes along as the aloof detached kayak leader. His life dream is to paddle the ‘big four’ flowing from the Himalaya in the Tibet: The Karnali (Nepal), The Sutlej (India), The Tsang Po (China) and The Indus (Pakistan). The four rivers are said to go around Mount Kailash and exit via Lord Shiva’s locks, as legends have it. The four rivers are also most sacred to Hindu-Buddhists as is the entire Himalayan range including Mount Kailash.
Scott takes us through this incredible journey across the Asian rivers, diving into deep gorges and taking on the rivers head on. It is lifetime passion of his as he tames the swirls over rapids and makes it to the plains so as his team members. In the process, he loses a couple of friends crushing the team spirit. There are one or two who quit as casualty rises while there are other aspirers who plough on.
Curiously Scott also turns into producer of his kayaking expeditions, the first of its kind to be filmed in the world. The rivers frothing and seething down the Himalayas make for an unbelievable aerial view eliciting lots of interest in the US. Unimaginable camera angles following the brave and bold kayakers in gurgling waters as they meander their way over bedrocks putting their lives hook, line and sinker into the very rivers they are cruising. What a footage! Someone familiar with kayaking following and shooting the daredevil kayakers makes for informative and authentic stories that win Scott accolades. Scott and friends navigate the first three rivers but damming of Sutlej does come as a disappointment to them. The fourth one the mighty Indus is out of bounds for the rafters as Pakistan remains closed to tourists.
Scott’s team now take on African rivers from the White Nile in Uganda infested with crocodiles and hippos. It is at this point that Scott realizes that he has become the weak link in the team as he loses his confidence. He says, what he hoped would be a three month break turned out to be a eight year long leave from kayaking and the outside world. He is diagnosed with tumour for which he goes under the knife. That is when he meets his girlfriend. Along with a young crew he hits off with in Idaho, Scott dreams of completing his mission of conquering the big four of the kayaking world. River Sindhu (as we Hindus in India know it) aka Indus is calling… Scott’s girlfriend sadly breaks up with him unable to deal with the pressure. But a determined Scott makes his way to Pakistan undeterred by the news of his tumour growing. He is all focused and in extremely good shape.
Sindhu/Indus omg what a river! Frothing right from the very origin, gushing through the creeks and valleys, the crevices and the gorges, jumping back to back sheer rapids and steep wall drops in falls, swirling and twirling at high speed over smoothened bedrocks, throttling at full volume, polishing the granite river banks in smooth rich tones, caving and tucking here, awesome fiery and overwhelming there … I felt such a sense of loss looking at Sindhu Mata, who gave India our name. Our Hindu river from Shiva’s locks. Unattainable today for us Hindus. I don’t think I have seen anything like this of Sindhu before this picture. Probably this is because, the footage has been shot by veteran kayakers who knew their job. They knew where to focus on and what to expect and when. The kayakers before taking to Sindhu reconnoiter the banks and go upstream/downstream on test paddling to get a grip on the river and its force. They do their bit of homework before they decide to take the plunge. I felt a disappointment when they leveled it out because I knew the picture was drawing to a close! Out of the world cinematography!
Kudos to the kayakers who are such an inspiration for generations to come. What is not risky business from boarding a plane to driving a sedan in highway. In the present Covid times, we don’t even know when or how we will meet our maker! Since 2020, world has seen a lot of us taken by surprise or perhaps shock. There is such an air of uncertainty everywhere that it feels good to see something like this. Scott Lindgren deserves a pat on his back for not only proving to himself a point but also showing us how nothing is beyond our limits. All it takes is the willpower and dexterity to go after what you want. The dedication and commitment combined with singlemindedness is the formula for success. No dilution of standards. High level of preparedness and meticulous research and planning and timing of it all.
Sindhu seems to have shaved Scott’s tumour as we come to know by the last reel. Hopefully Scott will have a long and happy life. Here is wishing him many more kayaking expeditions through rocky rivers wild and waiting to be tamed! Human spirit always triumphs!